NAPA (AP) — After spending a decade as an assistant in the NFL, Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen is excited for his first training camp as the man in charge.
"Jacked up about it," Allen said. "We're ready. It's a start of a long journey."
The Raiders held mandatory meetings and a conditioning test Sunday as they prepare for their first training camp practice Monday. The Raiders and Cowboys will be the final teams to start practicing at training camp because they will be the last teams to open the preseason — on Aug. 13.
The hiring of Allen as coach was part of the major change that went on with the Raiders in the first offseason since the death of longtime owner Al Davis. Reggie McKenzie was hired as general manager and made Allen the team's first defensive head coach since John Madden.
The front office and scouting departments were overhauled and many veterans were let go as the Raiders look to overcome a nine-year run without a winning record or a playoff berth.
There will be new systems on both offense and defense but Allen said the biggest change has to come from the players and coaches themselves.
"At the end of the day, change is going to come because people decide to change," Allen said. "We might have a change in philosophy or a change in ideas but if people don't change their actions. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you'll keep getting the same results. We have to change our actions. That's coaches, players the organization, whatever the case may be.
Allen also said he was surprised by assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski's decision to step down for personal reasons and explained his reasoning for not hiring a replacement to help line coach Frank Pollack.
"We just felt like at this point, this late in the game, that the right thing for us to do is to stick with the coaches that we have and go forward," Allen said. "I got every confidence in the world in Frank Pollack as an offensive line coach, being able to watch him throughout the OTAs and minicamp he did a great job and he'll do a great job coaching the offensive line."
Allen said he hadn't gotten reports from the training staff on if everyone would be healthy enough to practice but he expected center Stefen Wisniewski to practice for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery and receiver Denarius Moore to be back out after injuring his hamstring during minicamp last month.
The day started with the Raiders reaching a deal with their final unsigned draft pick, receiver Juron Criner. Criner signed the deal in time to be at the first mandatory meeting. The two sides were reportedly haggling over a $14,000 difference in Criner's signing bonus.
Criner was drafted with a compensatory pick at the end of the fifth round in April's draft. He immediately became a star of offseason workouts and is being counted on to contribute immediately to the Raiders, especially after the recent trade of receiver Louis Murphy to Carolina.
Despite lacking the breakaway speed the Raiders traditionally seek in their receivers, Criner was an extremely productive player in college at Arizona. He had 209 catches for 2,858 yards and 32 touchdowns in 50 games for the Wildcats.
The Raiders also signed two undrafted free agents, linebacker Chad Kilgore out of Northwest Missouri State and receiver DeAundre Muhammad out of Indiana. That gives Oakland 89 players on the roster, one short of the training camp limit. Allen said they probably wouldn't fill that spot immediately, preferring to wait and see where they might need help.